Select Committee on European Communities Tenth Report


The Committee's correspondence regarding the draft EURODAC Convention

Letter from Justice to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Communities

  I am writing with regard to the draft Convention concerning the establishment of "EURODAC" for the comparison of fingerprints of applicants for asylum (doc no. 10191/1/97 ASIM 187), as recently forwarded to the European Parliament for consultation. We understand that this is on the agenda to be signed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 4-5 December 1997.

  JUSTICE believes that the draft Convention raises a couple of significant human rights issues which should be addressed before it is signed.

  First, it appears from the draft Convention that the role of the Court of Justice has not yet been decided. Although the draft contains two articles (Articles 15 and 16) which confer jurisdiction on the Court to hear disputes between Member States as well as preliminary references, these are placed in brackets. We believe that the Government should be asked to clarify its position on this.

  It is vital that the Court should have full jurisdiction over the Convention to ensure its uniform application throughout the EU in accordance with the requirements of the 1951 Geneva Convention (as amended by the 1967 New York Protocol) and other obligations arising under international human rights law. Indeed, the Treaty of Amsterdam provides for the transfer of the subject matter of the EURODAC Convention from the third to a new Title in the first pillar (new Title IV TEC), thus granting jurisdiction to the Court of Justice. The UK has the right to opt-in to the new Title, and has indicated that it might use this right with regard to policy areas in which it already cooperates (as stated in evidence by Mr Doug Henderson, Minister for Europe, before the House of Commons European Legislation Select Committee on 12 November 1997).

  Second, the preamble of the Convention should require application of the EC Data Protection Directive 46/95. This provides individuals with stronger and more effective data protection rights than the 1981 Council of Europe Convention which the draft EURODAC Convention currently refers to. Upon entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the EC Data Protection Directive will apply to data processing for asylum purposes by the Central Unit as well as by the Member States (new Article 286 TEC). Already in the present draft, EURODAC is linked to the EC through Article 14, which provides that the costs for the Central Unit shall be borne by the EC Budget.

  Third, we believe that Article 6a(3) of the draft Convention, which provides for reviewing and possibly revoking Article 6a(2), is unnecessary and should be deleted. Article 6a(2) applies to the Convention the fundamental principle of data protection law that data shall be held for lawful and relevant purposes only, and states that data concerning an asylum applicant shall be deleted as soon as that person is granted refugee status. JUSTICE considers that revoking this Article would lower the standard of data protection below that required by the EC Data Protection Directive as well as the 1981 Council of Europe Data Protection Convention.

18 November 1997

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